Most children spend less than a minute brushing their teeth. Oral health care professionals recommend, however, that they brush for two to three minutes. Try putting a timer in the bathroom or giving your child a toothbrush with a timer built in. This way, your chilld will know how long to brush. Or, have them brush for the length of a song, which is generally two to three minutes.
It's especially important that your child brush his or her teeth before going to bed at night. The eight to ten hours your child is asleep gives bacteria lots of time to feast on food particles left on the teeth and produce enamel-eating acid. The flow of saliva in the mouth also is lower at night so food is less likely to be washed off the teeth. The technique for brushing your child's teeth is the same whether you do it or he or she does it. If your child is too young to do it him or herself, it may be easiest to cradle his or her head in your one arm while keeping your other hand free to brush.
To brush your child's teeth:
- Place the toothbrush alongside the teeth. The bristles should be at a 45 degree angle to the gum line.
- Gently move the brush in a small circular motion cleaning one tooth at a time. Be sure to have a system so you don't miss any teeth. For instance, you might start with the bottom back tooth and work your way to the front, and then repeat on the opposite side of the mouth before switching to the top teeth.
- Brush across the chewing surfaces, making sure the bristles get into the grooves and crevices. Clean the side of the teeth that face the tongue using the same circular motion. Again, start in the back and work your way forward. Remember to bruish inside of the top teeth, too.
- Brush your child's tongue lightly to remove bacteria and keep breath smelling good.
- Have your child rinse his or her mouth with water.
Most children miss the molars and the sides of the bottom teech when brushing. Be sure to pay special attention to these areas.
Flossing: Once any two of your child's teeth touch each other, it's time to start flossing. Flossing helps prevent cavities by removing plaque and food particles caught between teeth. It should be an important part of your child's dental routine. Your child should be able to floss his or her own teeth by the time he or she is 9 years old. To floss younger children's teeth, place them in your lap facing you. The technique is the same, no matter who is doing it. To floss your child's teeth:
- Take about 18 inches of dental floss and wrap one end around each of your middle fingers.
- Using your thumbs and index fingers as guides, gently slide the floss between two teeth, using a saw-like motion.
- Once at the gum line, pull both ends of the floss in the same direction to form a C shape against one tooth.
- Push the floss against the other tooth and repeat the motion.
- Repeat this for all of the teeth. Be sure to floss both sides of the teeth farthest back in the mouth.
Remember, good oral hygiene is an important part of your child's overall health. Your child can get off to a good start by:
- Seeing a dentist regularly
- Brushing twice a day and flossing at night before bedtime at home
- Getting the right amount of fluoride
- Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
SODA POP? It's Teeth Trouble by any Name!
It's called "pop" in the Midwest and most of Canadda. It's "soda" in the Northwest. And it goes by a well-known brand name in much of the South. People across North America use different words to identify a sugary, carbonated soft drink. But however they say it, they're talking about something that can cause serious oral health problems.
Soft drinks have emerged as one of the most significant dietary sources of tooth decay, affecting people of all ages. Acids and acidic sugar byproducts in soft drinks soften tooth enamel, contributing to the formation of cavities. In extreme cases, softer enamel combined with improper brusing, grinding of the teeth or other conditions can lead to tooth loss. Sugar-free drinks, which account for only 14 percent of all soft drink consuption, are less harmful. However, they are acidic and potentially can still cause problems.
We're drinking more and more. Soft drink consumption in the United States has increased dramatically across all demographic groups, especially amoung children and teenagers. The problem is so severe that health authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have begun sounding the alarm about the dangers.
How many school age children drink soft drinks? Estimates range from one in two to more than four in five consuming at least one soft drink a day. At least one in five kids consumes a minimum of four servings a day. Some teenagers drink as many as 12 soft drinks a day.
Larger serving sizes make the problem worse. From 6.5 ounces in the 50's the typical soft drink had grown to up to 20 ounces by the '90's.
Children and adolescents aren't the only people at risk. Long-term consumption of soft drinks has a cumulative effect on tooth enamel. As people live longer, more will be likely to experience problems.
What to do: Children, adolscents and adults can all benefit from reducing the number of soft drinks they consume, as well as from available oral care therapies. There are some steps you can take:
- Substitute different drinks: stock the fridge with beverages containing less sugar and acid such a swater, mmilk, andd 100 percent fruit juice. Drink them your self and encourage your kids to do the same.
- Rinse with water: after consuming a soft drink, flush your mouth with water to remove vestages of the drink that can prolong exposure of tooth enamel to acids.
- Use fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse: fluoride reduces cavities and strengthens tooth enamel, so brush with a fluoride containing toothpaste. Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash also can help. Your dentist can recommend an over-the--counter mouthwash or prescribe a stronger one depending on the severity of the condition. He or she also can prescribe a higher fluoride toothpaste.
- Get professionally applied fluoride treatment: your dental hyugienist can apply fluoride in the form of a foam, gel or rinse.
Soft drinks are hard on your teeth. By reducing the amount you drink, practicing good oral hygiene, and seeking help from your dentist and hygienist, you can counteract their effect and enjoy better oral health.
SMART SNACKS FOR HEALTHY TEETH
What's wrong with sugary snacks anyway:
Sugary snacks taste so good - but they aren't so good for your teeth or your body. The candies, cakes, cookies, and other sugary foods that kids love to eat between meals can cause tooth decay. Some sugary foods have a lot of fat in them too. Kids who consume sugary snacks eat many different kids of sugar every day, including table sugar (sucrose) and corn sweeteners (fructose). Starchy snacks can also break down into sugars once they're in your mouth.
How do sugars attack your teeth? Invisible germs called bacteria live in your mouth all the timje. Some of these bacteria form a sticky material called plaque on the surfade of the teeth., When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque gobbleup the sweet stuff and turn it into acids. These acids are powerful enough to dissolve the hard enamel othat covers your teeth. Tha's how cavities get started. If you don't eat much sugar, the bacteria can't prodice a much of the aci that eats away enamel.
How can I "snack smart" to protect myself from tooth decay? Before you start munching on a snack, ask yourself what's in the food you've chosen. Is it louded with sugar? If it is, think again, another choice whould be better for your teeth. And keep in mind that certain kinds of sweets can do more damage than others. Gooey or chewy sweets spend more time sticking to the surface of your teeth. Because sticky snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly chew and swallow, they give your teeth a longer sugar bath. You should also think about when and how often you eat snacks. Do you nibble on sugary snacks many times throughout the day, or do you usually just have dessert after dinner? Damaging acids form in your mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. The acids continue to affect your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and can't do any more harm. So, the more times you eat sugary snacks during the day, the more often you feed bacteria the fuel they need to cause tooth decay.
If you eat sweets, it's best to eat them as dessert after a meal instead of several times a day between meals. Whenever you eat sweets - in any meal or snack - brush your teeth well with a fluoride toothpaste afterward.
When you're deciding about snacks, think about:
- The number of times a day you eat sugary snacks
- How long the sugary food stays in your mouth
- The texture of the sugary food (chewy? sticky"?)
If you snack after school, before bedtime, or other times during the day, choose something without a lot of sugar or fat. There are lots of tasty, filling snacks that are less harmful to your teeth - and the rest of your body - than foods loaded with sugars and low in nutritional value. Snack smart!
Low-fat choices like raw vegetables, fresh fruits, or whole-grain crackers or bread are smart choices. Eating the right foods can help protect you from tooth decay and other diseases. Next time you reach for a snack, pick a food from the list below or make up your own menu of non-sugary, low-fat snack foods from the basic food groups.
How Can You Snack Smart? Be Choosy! Pick a variety of foods from these groups:
Fresh fruits and raw vegetables: Berries, oranges, Grapefruit, Melons, Pineapple, Pears, Tangerines, Broccoli, Celery, Carrots, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices Canned fruits in natural juices.
Grains: breads, plain bagels, unsweetened cereals, unbuttered popcorn, tortilla chips (baked, not fried), pretzels, pasta, plain crackers
Milk and dairy products: low or non-fat milk, low or non-fat yogurt, now or non-fat cheese, low or non-fat cottage cheese
Meats, nuts and seeds: chicken, turkey, sliced meats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts
Others: (foods combined from different groups) pizza, tacos
Remember to choose sugary foods less often, avoid sweets between meals, eat a variety of low or non-fat foods from the basic groups, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after snacks and meals.